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Spanish Grand Prix 2021

What we learned from qualifying for the F1 Spanish Grand Prix

The second day of action from the Spanish Grand Prix is over, with plenty to pick apart from qualifying. What have we learned heading into Sunday's race in Barcelona?

Analysis
To news overview © Mercedes

Qualifying is in the books with Lewis Hamilton capturing the 100th pole of his career, with rival Max Verstappen joining him on the front row for Sunday's Spanish GP.

Once again it looks like Mercedes and Red Bull will battle it out for victory, however keep an eye on Ferrari and Alpine as the two teams appear ready to pounce on any mistakes made by the front runners after strong showings.

Here's what we learned from Saturday's action.

All eyes on Hamilton after 100th pole, but...

It was another day to remember in the storied career of Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes star became the first F1 driver to hit the century mark when it comes to pole positions.

The fact the Brit is now 32 poles ahead of Michael Schumacher on the all-time list is a testament to how good he is over one lap, and at the rate he's going you have to wonder if anyone will ever catch him.

While Hamilton's accomplishment is worthy of all the Saturday headlines, it will once again be close at the front as Red Bull's Max Verstappen missed out on pole by just 0.036s. Hamilton stated after the session that he left some time on the track as Sergio Perez's spin in the third sector cost the Mercedes driver.

Nevertheless, Red Bull will feel they can take the fight to Mercedes as they showed their real pace on Saturday after taking a back seat to proceedings on Friday.

Mercedes do hold the advantage in one regard though, as unlike Portugal, Perez will start outside the front two rows after battling a shoulder injury. He will start eighth, and with Catalunya a notoriously difficult place to pass, it's likely Verstappen will have to battle the two Silver Arrows on his own.

Don't expect that to slow down the Dutchman, meaning we should be in for another exciting battle for victory on Sunday.

Ferrari have the upper hand on McLaren

The battle for third sees Ferrari head into Sunday's race with the advantage over McLaren, after both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualified inside the top six.

For the third time in four races, Leclerc will start from the second row after finishing with the fourth fastest time. It's his best ever starting position in Spain, though he admitted after Saturday's qualifying that he isn't expecting a podium finish.

"Anything is possible, but realistically it's going to be very difficult," Leclerc told Sky Sports about his chances of getting into the top three on Sunday. "In normal conditions, I don't think we can keep that third place in case we get there at one point.

"The goal is to try and extract the maximum out of the car and if third is the best we can do tomorrow, then it will be third. We are in front of both McLaren's which are our main competitors this year."

Sainz starts sixth, but with the gap from fourth to eighth sitting at less than two tenths, Ferrari will have to be on their game if they want to score a big haul of points after a disappointing Sunday in Portugal last time out.

McLaren enter the Spanish GP 11 points up on Ferrari and will start seventh and ninth, with Daniel Ricciardo the higher of the two drivers. It's certainly a welcome result for the Australian who failed to get out of Q1 in Portimao, and given he felt he had the pace to qualify as high as fourth, it looks as though he's ready to fight Ferrari on Sunday.

As for Norris, the Brit admitted after the session that he was a frustrated with how things went. His day was hampered by an early incident in Q1 with Nikita Mazepin that resulted in a penalty for the Russian.

While Norris was able to progress through, he needed to use a fresh set of soft tyres to do so which ultimately limited his chances of improving his time in Q3. However with McLaren having shown all season that they have a strong package come race day, all is not lost for the team.

Alpine confirm progress while Aston Martin stumble

Alpine and Aston Martin look to be heading in opposite directions as the French team confirmed they're ready to fight in the midfield, while the British outfit failed to get out of Q2.

Esteban Ocon will start fifth - his best qualifying performance since last season's Styrian GP, while it's the first time both cars made it through to Q3 since the 2020 Bahrain GP as Fernando Alonso qualified 10th.

It confirms Alpine's performance in Portugal wasn't a one-off, with the team stating on Friday they are experimenting with some of the upgrades they brought with them to Imola. Whatever they are doing is paying off, as they look poised for more points on Sunday.

While Alpine are rising, the same can't be said for Aston Martin as both Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll failed to make it out of Q2 on Saturday. Both drivers will have the ability to choose their tyre compounds for Sunday's race, but that isn't enough for the team given their lofty goals ahead of the start of the season.

Anything can happen during the race given how close the times are, however it looks as though Aston Martin might be in for another long day if they aren't able to get things right.

Tsunoda with a lot of growing up to do

It was a day to forget for Yuki Tsunoda as the Japanese driver was dumped out of Q1. It isn't a disaster considering his struggles in qualifying this season, but certainly not where he wants to be.

However the AlphaTauri driver made headlines after voicing his frustrations over the team radio, and then following that up with comments to the media where he questioned whether he and Pierre Gasly have the same car.

It forced Tsunoda to issue an apology to the team on his social media accounts, as he stated he was frustrated with himself more than anything.

Tsunoda will go a long way to making things right by putting in a strong performance on Sunday, but even then, he's quickly learning that outbursts similar to the one he had on Saturday won't be tolerated.

RN365 News dossier F1 2021 Spanish Grand Prix

The latest news about the Spanish Grand Prix straight from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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